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    The evolutionary history of complement suggests that the alternative pathway arose prior to the arrival of the classical and lectin pathways. In these pathways, target specificity is provided by antibodies and sugar specific lectins. While these efficient initiation systems dominate activation on most targets, the alternative pathway produces most of the C3b and 80%-90% of the C5b-9. While the tickover process, originally proposed by Peter Lachmann, provided ancient hosts with a crude self/non-self-discriminatory system that initiated complement attack on everything foreign, tickover clearly plays a more minor role in complement activation in modern organisms possessing classical and lectin pathways. Spontaneous activation of the alternative pathway via tickover may play a major role in human pathologies where tissue damage is complement-mediated. The molecular mechanism of tickover is still not convincingly proven. Prevailing hypotheses include (a) spontaneous hydrolysis of the thioester in C3 forming the C3b-like C3(H2 O) in solution and (b) "enhanced tickover" in which surfaces cause specific or non-specific contact activated conformational changes in C3. Theoretical considerations, including computer simulations, suggest that the latter mechanism is more likely and that more research needs to be devoted to understanding interactions between biological surfaces and C3. © 2022 John Wiley & Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


    Michael K Pangburn. Initiation of the alternative pathway of complement and the history of "tickover". Immunological reviews. 2023 Jan;313(1):64-70

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    PMID: 36089768

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